Ramblings – January 2019

Farming is a constant learning process. Take today as an example. I learned two things today. The first, is that the cow hooves I buy the dogs to chew smell horrendous!! Seriously, I searched the house high and low convinced that Boomer had an accident. Then  I discovered the smell was coming out of his other end…the end chewing on the cow hoof. Oy!

Second, I discovered I am capable of having some pretty in depth and interesting conversations….with myself. For instance this morning I in the back yard with Boomer, dressed in my pj’s I was encouraging him to do his business before I froze, when I looked up and saw the goats walking along the fence line out towards the woods. I began my good mornings to them, calling out each goat by name. I got through the group and realized someone was missing. I did a quick head count to double check. Yup definitely missing one. Then I realized Beauty was the doe that was missing. She’s the first due to kid and so large that yesterday I joked her belly looks taunt enough to split open and purge the kid in true “Alien” (the movie) fashion. Seriously, look at the size of her! The doe standing slightly behind her is also pregnant and due about a week afterward. I’m not trying to give her a complex or anything but she looks like she’s carrying a full litter!

I gave another good look around the pasture for Beauty, but couldn’t find her. With her coloring, she’s usually pretty easy to spot. Not ready to panic yet, I gave a few yells, calling her name. This usually brings her running or at the very least, she’s yell back to me.  This time I was met with silence. “What ifs” started running rampantly through my head and so began my interesting conversation.

Me: I’m sure it’s nothing. She’s not due for another 11 days.

Also me: Have you seen the size of her? And let’s face it you aren’t the best at recording breeding dates accurately.

Me: That “may” be true but really….11 days! Do you think I could have screwed up the date by 11 days??

Also me: Yes.

Me: That’s mean. Have a little faith!

Also me: How are you going to feel if she’s up there having problems birthing and you didn’t check her because you were sure you couldn’t possibly have screwed up the due date?

Me:   …………..

Apparently, I really know how to push my buttons because I  turned around and hightailed it into the house and shimmied into my farm clothes in record time, racing back outside and heading up to the goat pasture. Fortunately, before I ever got that far Beauty came waddling out of the woods. Once my heart meandered back from my throat to my chest, I looked suspiciously at Beauty, convinced she had done this intentionally. She’s got a great poker face though and gives nothing away.

Yup, farming is a constant learning process, all this excitement and it’s not even lunch time yet. Who needs Hollywood when you’ve got goats.

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Farming Lessons & Life Goals

pepper starts 012019Once upon a time I hated pepper plants. They are notoriously slow to get started from seed and no matter how much I babied the seeds they were always weeks behind the other plants. While all my other starts were tall, strong and bursting to get outside and into the sunshine, my pepper plants were always tiny and struggling. It became an annual frustration. I would move them to the best location for light, place a seed mat under them, have a small fan blowing nearby for air circulation, etc… But every year when it came time to move the seedlings outside I would look at my peppers and feel as if I had failed once again. I took to starting them much earlier than the other seeds but I did it with so much frustration, mumblings and complaining the whole time at the extra work and attention they needed.

A few years ago I decided to approach the growing season differently. Rather than trying so hard to get my peppers to go against what is their inherent nature (being slow to start), what if I embraced that trait? Rather than complaining about starting them a couple weeks early, why not start them a full 4 weeks early and do it with a happy heart? After all usually by the beginning of the new year I am itching to get outside. I’m perusing seed catalogs with glee and dreaming of when I can sink my hands into some dirt. So why not start the peppers super early, enjoy playing in the dirt and let the peppers take their sweet, and molasses-like, slow time to reach maturity. It took me a bit to finally stepped outside the box of my normal schedule and routine and try this life shifted without a grudging heart, but once I did….. what a change.

I was able to enjoy having a valid reason for playing in the dirt in the middle of winter and the peppers were finally allowed to follow their natural inclination. Best of all they were ready when the rest of the plants were, standing tall and strong and I didn’t feel like a frustrated failure. Win- win! Wouldn’t life be awesome if this idea could be applied to people? Rather than trying to get people to fit into other’s ideas of what or where they should be in life, we just support and appreciate their individual quirkiness? I love it when farm lessons teach me about life. ❤

Farm Records

thumbnail_img_1936[1]Those of you on my Facebook page have heard me drill over and over again that you must write down accurate breeding dates! Life can get way too busy to try to reply on memory, especially a memory as bad as mine. A few years ago life was kicking my rear end and as we struggled to just stay in the game, we would take the short cut of just moving the girls out with the buck and “letting nature take it’s course”. Of course, the result was that every spring we had no idea when the goats were due to kid and I would be pulling my hair out trying to prepare for the event with no idea when it would occur

This year was better. I actually planned our breeding season methodically and with intent. I was so proud. I kept diligent records of each and every time we exposed a doe to the buck! Because of this diligence we were able to plan our pre-kidding activities with some degree of certainty, and not just making a random guess. It was rather exciting to think I was finally getting my poop in a group (aka getting my sh*t together).  I took this as a sign that we were on track to a better farming year.

So armed with these dates we spent last weekend trimming hooves and giving the goats their vaccinations and supplemental injects that they need 4-6 weeks prior to kidding. We made plans to shave rear ends in two weeks and also to prepare the kidding area, stock up on supplies and give the whole barn a good cleaning. thumbnail_img_2062[1]

While I was out working with the goats I noticed that Beauty and Vessie were both much larger than the other girls. I tried not to stare or mention it to them. I didn’t want to make them self conscience but in fact they looked ready to go at any time. I snapped a picture and even mentioned to Hubs that they both looked like they were starting to bag up already….. but that just wasn’t likely this early from their due date.

This morning on a whim, I opened my records to recheck Beauty’s first potential kidding date (rather than going by my often faulty memory) and discovered it was within 2 days! WTH? Apparently my tired brain had forgotten that first breeding. This kicked us into high gear.  We now need to do all those same things…but much sooner.  I have some serious doubts that they will kid it in two days…they look close but not that close, but we need to be ready regardless.

So other then whining, why am I telling you this? Well, apparently just keeping accurate and detailed records isn’t enough….. you have to go back and check them too. *sigh* Here’s to hoping that next year will go smoother.

Enjoying the Season

47345720_1154511974723742_810125995615977472_n[1]I recently saw this meme on my Facebook feed and it resonated deeply with me. A few years ago we made a conscience effort to try to live with the seasons, rather than fighting against them as I had done most of my life. The result was to feel a sense of peace settle over me.

For most of my life I’ve felt hurried. I was either wishing away the winter so I could get outside and work on projects that I had fallen behind on or I was wishing summer get here quicker so I could finally harvest the garden. Rather than living my life to the fullest and enjoying it, I was actually wishing it away. Being the typical farmer/homesteader I always have a list of to-do projects that are about a mile long. Also being the typical farmer I never seem to get to the bottom of the list. As soon as I cross off an item, 2-3 more get added to the list. It’s the farming version of Sisyphus’s hell. When you also have to take the weather into consideration when planning your projects, meaning you can’t drive fence posts when the ground it too soggy or frozen and roofing repairs needs to happen to structures before the heavy rains hit, planting needs to occur when the temperatures are right for that particular plant, etc… it just adds another layer of complexity to an already difficult task. Trying to coordinate with mother nature, who is a fickled team player at best, can make even the most patient person sizzle with frustration.

thumbnail_IMG_1849[1]I’ve been told that I am incredibly stubborn, but even I had to admit that I would never win in my ongoing war against mother nature. Remember that old saying, “if you can’t beat them join them.” I decided to take it to heart and in an effort to simplify my life I decided to give up the war and join her team. Once I stopped fighting mother nature and aligned myself to her schedule, however wild and unpredictable that may be, I finally felt peace. I stopped feeling as though I was running as fast as I could and still falling behind. Suddenly, I was able to appreciate the present.  I wasn’t late or playing catch up. I was exactly where I was meant to be for that moment.

We were blessed with a abnormally dry and warm fall this year and that helped us get a few lingering summer projects completed, but there are always more that didn’t get done. So when I woke to the hard frost this morning I felt the old apprehension set in for just a moment. I thought about the roof and walls that hadn’t been put on the new temporary shelter, the trees that hadn’t been  planted yet, the gate that hadn’t been hung, the cabbage that I still needed to harvest and so many other things that needed my attention, and then I took a breath. I reminded myself that mother nature and I now played for the same team. Apparently she felt those things could wait and so I took my lead from her. Things would get done whenever they got done and there was nothing I could do to change that timeline. After a sigh of acceptance, I built a fire, set some butter chicken simmering on the stove (with extra garlic of course) and settled in to do some computer work, all while enjoying the best view in the world, because this is exactly where I am meant to be right now.

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Firewood that Fights Back

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It’s still a busy time on the farm, we have almost finished getting the garden cleaned up and put to bed for winter,  the garlic has been planted and is resting and preparing for spring and now we’re working on planting trees. I know most people plant trees and shrubs in the spring but I prefer fall. Planting trees in the fall when the roots have gone dormant allows them to be naturally watered by rain and they have a whole fall and winter to get settled before the stress of growing season. The only downfall is that most nurseries don’t have a great selection at this time of year.

 The other big project is firewood. We try to heat by wood as much as possible. We do this for two reasons, mostly because it’s cheaper but also because wood heat seems to chase the damp chill off my achy joints much better than electric heat. In our rainy winter weather that’s a big deal. Plus, I confess a true love of wood smoke. The hint of wood smoke in the air is one of the most comforting scents I know.

 We had quite a bit of windfall wood from the past couple of years that had fallen in our hillside pastures and we figured this was the year to get it cut  or it would go to rot. Hubs took the tractor and chains and we began the careful work of getting the tractor into the slippery and sloped hills, chaining the logs and then slowly dragging them out of the pasture. This last part was done while we prayed like crazy that the log wouldn’t develop a mind of its own and go rogue, rolling down the hill, taking out fences, shelters or us. fred tractor 1018

Once the logs were brought in from the pasture we began one of the worst chores on the farm, in my humble opinion. The splitting, cutting and stacking. It’s not the backbreaking, never ending labor part I hate, it’s the splinters. It’s like the wood is fighting back with little, invisible weapons of warfare. They get EVERYWHERE! I’m amazed at some of the locations I seem to get them. It is impossible to pick them all out and then there’s the cold shower. I was always taught that heat opens the pores and can allow the splinter to settle further into the skin, so cold was necessary if you have splinters. It’s just adding insult to injury.

 Last weekend I was determined to walk away with fewer splinters. I usually wear heavy pants and boots. I also usually added a windbreaker type jacket (a heavy duty one is just too warm for this work). The material on a windbreaker or rain slicker is usually provides a good barrier to protect from the miniscule needles attempting to take residence on my body. Anyway, I digress, I was determined to up my game and keep myself adopting any orphaned wood products so I wore my usual jeans and boots, two layers on top, covered by the windbreaker (of course) and then, the final touch, was to add latex gloves under my work gloves. The tiny splinters seems to always work their way through the leather gloves and imbed themselves into my palm, fingers and wrists. The latex was long enough to also cover my wrists, a usual splinter magnet, so I was set!

logs for firewood A couple hours into the process my hands and wrists were relatively splinter free. You would think I would be ecstatic….. but I wasn’t. Apparently in my careful wardrobe planning I had neglected one very, very important item. A belt. I was doing what I think city kids call “sagging”. This would have been just been a slight inconvenience, if not for the fact that when I went to hitch up my pants with my leather gloved hands……I apparently was shedding wooden shives down my drawers. You’ve heard of ants in your pants? This was kinda like that. I now had splinters on a part of my body that until this year, had remained unscathed. They were also in an area that I couldn’t remove by myself, giving Hubs and I a whole new relational challenge in the marriage game.

 Anyway, all this to say, I’m definitely going to remember my belt during next year’s firewood work. Also I’m pretty sure I’ll be filled with a tiny amount of vindictive glee, giving me an extra special warmth, as I pitch each log into the fire.

Stay warm my friends.

Ramblings: Heart Attack Farming Style

I was working from home, minding my own business when I suddenly heard a loud commotion coming from the goat pasture out behind the house. I went to the window and took a peek out. The goats had all run for the safety of their barn and the dogs were frantically running back and forth on the perimeter fence in that area. I watched for a bit to see if I was needed but nothing else appeared out of the ordinary so I turned to head back to my computer and the awaiting pile of work. As I was turning away my eyes happened to fall on a lump leaned against the fence. Upon closer look, I discovered the lump turned was one of my goats, sprawled against the fence, eyes closed and not moving. I yelled to her, “hey Sadie….”, nothing. I clapped my hands and whistled, hoping against hope that she was just resting, but there was no response. The rest of the goats had all run off in a panic and Sadie wasn’t moving. This wasn’t good.

My heart was in my throat as I ran for some shoes and raced out back. As soon as I was within eyesight of the pasture I started yelling for the goats. The entire herd rushed over to greet me at the gate, except Sadie. By now I was muttering under my breath as I opened the gate and made my way across the pasture. My mutters went something like this, “oh crap, please don’t be dead, please don’t be dead, oh crap!”. There might have also been a few, “What the *%#*!” mixed in for good measure. All I could think was that if I got there in time and she wasn’t dead, I would somehow be able to save her (apparently, I have a totally misplaced sense of confidence in my vetting abilities). My mind was racing with possibilities, did something get through the fence and attack her? Is that what sent the herd running and the dogs barking? She’s one of the friendliest girls and I could see her being more trusting of predators, but could it really have happened so quickly when I was only a few hundred yards away?

 As I stumbled down the hillside in Hub’s shoes (they were the closest ones to the door and the first pair I grabbed in my hurry) I continued yelling, whistling and clapping my hands, but not even an ear twitched. By now, sensing my anxiety, the dogs had given up on whatever held their fascination at the perimeter fence and sat just outside the goat fence that Sadie was leaning on, watching with some concern. I reached her and gave her a quick visual once over. There were no signs of trauma. No blood on the ground or on Sadie. I started wondering if she had a heart attack or choked. I gently nudged her in her ribs. But got no reaction. Nothing. Damn! Sighing heavily and facing my fears, I leaned down to roll her over so I could thoroughly inspect her and figure out what had happened. As I placed my hands on her head and shoulder to roll her over, Sadie opened her eyes, lifted her head a tiny bit and gave me a look of utter disgust. I nearly fell over from surprise, but caught myself and instead just sat down rather ungracefully in the dirt. Apparently when Sadie sleeps, she REALLY sleeps and nothing is going to wake her until she is ready. Not barking dogs, the herd running off in a panic, me yelling, whistling, screaming and clapping, or even a nudge or two to the ribs. To be honest, after recovering from my initial heart attack, my first coherent thought was to be a bit jealous of how soundly Sadie can sleep.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, a problem that apparently doesn’t bother Sadie in the slightest.

 By this time the rest of the herd had wandered down the hillside to see what all the fun was about. The dogs were still looking at me with puzzlement, as if they didn’t get the joke, and Sadie had wandered off, looking backward long enough to shoot me the stink eye capture in this picture.  As anyone with goats will tell you, they have tons of personality and can communicate their feelings quite effectively. Unlike the other goats she wasn’t happy to see me, in fact she didn’t seem at all appreciative of my efforts to save her life. It fact, it was clear that she was downright irritated that I interrupted her restful beauty sleep.

I took another minute or two to rest my racing heart before the other goats trying to climb in my lap, forced me back on my feet. Thanks Sadie for helping me get the old pumper thumping this morning.  I’m the first to admit that farming has a lot of heartache and loss, it also has a lot of mini- eart attacks, anxiety and downright comical moments.  I’m so glad this moment turned out to be one of the latter.

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Winter Prep Ramblings

Winter Prep Ramblings

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASummer is a time of plenty and replenishment. Anyone who’s familiar with the fable of the grasshopper and the ant knows summer is when there is an abundance of food but it’s also a time to prepare for the coming winter. People prepare for the coming season in a variety of ways from simply doing some back to school shopping to the more comprehensive preparation of canning, freezing and dehydrating their home grown foods.  

Here on our farm, we are like the ant. We start drying herbs early in summer, move to canning and freezing vegetables and fruits in mid and late summer and of course do our meat harvest in early fall to fill our freezers. Aside from food there are other items that need replenishing, such as the firewood shed. I also start making fire starters in the early fall, make sure my candle stock is sufficient for any long term power outages and of course do basic home winter prepping like cleaning out gutters, making sure rain barrels are ready, weather stripping is still in good shape, etc…  But aside from all these practical needs, there is one that I also consider fundamental to having a well stocked winter home…..it’s items for my mental health and entertainment.  reason firewood EDIT

In some ways we’re like the grasshopper, we enjoy our down time, but unlike the grasshopper, we just plan for it. Winter can mean some much needed down time. While chores still need to be done and animals cared for, the garden work is minimal and most large construction or repair projects are put on hold till the weather is better. This means I have some time for me. Time to rest after the craziness of summer and time to rest and replenish my weary self. We have given up our Direct TV services since we found we only watched a few hours a month and it just wasn’t worth the amount we were paying for it. What we found instead was that we read. In fact we read A LOT. We also spend winter hours learning and trying our hand at new skills. This is part of our summer replenishment planning too.

During summer we visit as many yard sales as we can building our collection of winter reading material. As we finish reading these books we take them to our favorite used book store and then trade them in other reading materials. We also pick up books and supplies for our winter crafts and skill building. For example I’m also looking for good sheets that I can use to make fabric yarn for my rugs and baskets. I also pick up supplies to make new molds, curing racks or storage for soap making, wine making supplies and also materials for paper making.  

While the winter preparation for food, heat and shelter may make our physical lives more comfortable, these additional preparations make our emotional lives more satisfying. I would encourage you to embrace both your inner ant and grasshopper and plan for both to make for a enjoyable winter.

Happy Prepping!

 winter books